My legs seemed to weigh a ton this morning, and some of my pals seemed somewhat stuffed as we saw to our various hen-runs. Only the chickens seemed unaffected by the Christmas indulgences. Even Bill’s constant companion, the basset hound, seemed less perky than usual. No great surprise there, for it seems that whilst the house guests were enjoying a pre-lunch drink he spent time in the kitchen devouring the roast duck. Whether his lethargy is due to the amount he ate or what happened to him afterwards is less than clear.
But we are all genuinely pleased at the news of the Duke of Edingburgh’s improvemnt following heart surgery. Yes, the insertion of a stent is fairly routine these days but Philip is 90, an age at which routine becomes dangerous. One thing is certain, when something serious does afflict him he will be sorely missed by we codgers.
None of us would describe himself as a royalist, some of us believe that the time has come for the Royal soap-opera to come to its final curtain. We are no longer a major player on the world stage, and many of the trappings of power that surround a monarchy look absurdly dated. We are the only country in the world to have Lords, Knights of the Garter, orders of an Empire long gone et al and they no longer seem appropriate in the modern age.
But the Duke once gave us a warning that is well worth bearing in mind. He remarked that the value of the monarchy now lies in what they prevent. In times of crisis the people turn towards the Palace. They know that the Queen is above politics, is totally honest and genuinely cares. Were there to be no monarch we would have someone like Blair or Cameron as President, and every time they lied or fell from grace the stability of the nation would be threatened. In her Christmas address the Queen laid great emphasis on christianity, those monkeys would have ruled that out on grounds of political correctness.
The Duke himself has done a magnificent job. He entered the royal circle unexpectedly, in fact had it not been for an abdication he would never have been burdened with the exacting role of consort. As a young man he served in the Royal Navy with distinction and had a reputation as a man of action, truly his own man. All that he cast aside to provide his princess with total support when she was suddenly thrust into the role of head of state. And there he has loyally remained. No wife ever had a more steadfast companion.
From time to time the curtain has parted slightly and we have glimpsed the rascal that is in him, but everyone that has ever met the Duke of Edinburgh, and the number must run into millions considering the exhausting schedule he has always maintained, has nothing but praise for his friendly and unpatronising manner.
Some of those on the left who complain of the monarchy are wide of the mark. Without doubt the Queen and the Duke have done more to boost overseas trade than any Foreign Scretary or salesman ever could. And the cost of the Royals to the taxpayer are miniscule compared to those of the tax-dodgers, government blunders and self-seeking politicians. Why the royal household needs to include so many hangers-on is another matter.
Given the penchant of the Brits for gawping it is hard to read too much into the crowds that gathered at Sandringham yesterday. ‘Three times the normal’ scream the headlines, and add their interpretation that the popularity of the Royals has rocketed. The real explanation is probably the presence of glamour puss Kate. Why anyone would queue on Christmas Day to glimpse a version of Miss World is beyond comprehension, but rubber-necking is our passion.
So get well Philip, the country needs you. Without you the House of Windsor just might begin to take itself too seriously, thus providing amunition to its enemies. Whilst you are there the danger of that is minimal, after all it was you who describd the procession of the garter as “silly dressing-up but good fun”.
We codgers wish you a life longer than ours. Mind you, that is hardly overly encouraging!